By Rob Donkersloot, AURA President

A few years ago I was running a marathon, nothing too quick, hoping to run a 3:45 or similar when I noticed another competitor was being paced by different runners who were jumping in from the sidelines about every 10km to run with him. While we weren’t running for sheep stations, it annoyed me a little, given it was blatantly flouting the rules. When I commented on it in social media later, I was surprised by the varied opinions, from those who were quite comfortable in using the “cheat” word, to others who thought I was taking it way too seriously for a 3:45 marathon that mattered to no one.

Flying to Taipei for the Asian 24 Hour Championships last month I had plenty of time to study the IAU Technical Guidelines to again familiarise myself with the rules which govern our sport and include the following:

3.4 The Referees and Judges ensure that throughout the entire event the IAAF Rules and IAU Guidelines are complied with, especially to the IAAF Rules 240 (Road races) and 144 (assistance), which forbid assistance of all kind. No competitor may receive an unfair advantage.

Special attention for the following actions:

Forbidden are:

3.41 Pacing, i.e. the ‘step making’ and the accompany of the MIAUC participants by any athlete not in the same event e.g. no man can run with any woman as they are taking part in separate events, open race athletes are also in a separate event and cannot pace MIAUC participants and any runner who has retired during the event must take no further part at all. Also all kind of technical pacing devices are forbidden, especially by vehicles of all kinds.

3.42 Hand over and acceptance of drinks and food, water and sponges, support at the shoe and dress change, assistance by massages and medical service outside of the designated refreshment zone.

The pacing rule I think is especially of note, what it means in short is you should only run with someone competing in the same race as yourself, and that means the same gender.

Does that matter for the ordinary runner and mean you can’t run with a good mate of the opposite gender for a while during an event? Generally speaking it probably doesn’t matter any, however runners who are potentially setting age group records, wanting to set qualifying times for Australian team selection, looking at placings at Australian Championships and the like should not put themselves in a position where their run could be in question due to ignoring this rule.

And for the runners who are unlikely to place in an event, personally I feel that if you are somehow achieving an advantage over other competitors by your actions that are against the rules, it’s probably not a good idea. But maybe that’s just me.

The rule relating to assistance outside of refreshment zones I feel is one that should be followed by all competitors, often I have seen crew walking with runners for significant distances handing off drinks and refreshments as they go. It’s quite simple that this isn’t allowed within the regulations, so shouldn’t be taking place.

I think a lot of the issues with these rules at our events is a lack of awareness, certainly a number of the runners in the Australian team at Taipei weren’t aware of the pacing regulations as it relates to running with the opposite gender.

Anyway, if you have read this far, now you know.

For more specific information see these guideline published by AURA in 2012.